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Telling a Rats' Tale in 'Flushed Away'


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Before the break we heard from NPR science correspondent Joe Palca on the physics of the bathroom shower. Well, speaking of bathrooms, there's a new animated movie NPR's movie critic Bob Mondello seems fond of, called Flushed Away.

BOB MONDELLO: Roddy St. James is a pampered pet mouse who's never so much as gotten his paws dirty. So when a sewer rat invades his house while his owners are away, Roddy's first thought is to send him back where he came from. Alas, the sewer rat sees through his plan.

(Soundbite of movie "Flushed Away")

Mr. ANDY SERKIS (Actor): (As Sid) You were gonna flush me down the loo.

Mr. HUGH JACKMAN (Actor): (As Roddy St. James) No. No, no, no. It's a big Jacuzzi, deluxe model

Mr. SERKIS: Then you won't mind if I get the bubbles going, will ya?

Mr. JACKMAN: No, not the lever. Have mercy. No, I can't swim.

Mr. SERKIS: Bon voyage, me ol' cream cracker. Hold your nose.

Mr. JACKMAN: You can't do this.

Mr. SERKIS: You were going to try and flush me. Let's see how you like it.

(Soundbite of flushing)

MONDELLO: Down the pipes, into the London sewers, which are populated by British-accented frogs, rats, beetles and slugs. The slugs are the charmers. Roddy feels a bit out of place in what turns out to be an underground mini-London, and he gets off on the wrong foot with a river rat tugboat pilot named Rita he's hoping to sail home with. She thinks he's a snob, and when he gets her caught by the henchmen of a gangster toad, who are looking for a ruby, she is disinclined to help him get away.

(Soundbite of movie "Flushed Away")

Mr. JACKMAN: (As Roddy) Will you please tell this people I'm not involved in this.

Ms. KATE WINSLET (Actor): (As Rita) Fine. All right, all right, listen up. This gentleman, he's not from around here.

Mr. JACKMAN: Thank you.

Ms. WINSLET: Just look how nicely he's dressed.

Mr. JACKMAN: Oh, thank you.

Ms. WINSLET: And why? Because he's an international jewel thief.

Mr. JACKMAN: Precisely. What? No, no.

Ms. WINSLET: He stole the ruby from me, and if you just put me down...

Mr. JACKMAN: No, no, she's lying.

MONDELLO: Now, this is pretty standard plotting for an animated picture, but the movie doesn't look standard because it's all been designed by the Wallace and Gromit folks. They usually work with clay figures and stop-action cameras. But for Flushed Away they teamed up with computer animators, which frees them up quite a bit.

The figures still look and move as if they'd been modeled in clay, but digitizing them allows for loads of fun departures. They can play with water, for a start. And while the design folks are playing, the script folks are too, with jokey references to Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and more or less the whole computer animated catalogue.

The level of invention is impressive, and if the main characters - voiced by Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet - are less interesting than the folks on the sidelines, well, that's what bit parts are for, right?

Ian McKellen's gangster toad, Jean Reno's French frog, and those slugs who are not only charming but also sing backup when Roddy wants to make nice after Rita maroons him on a floating rubber duckie.

(Soundbite of movie "Flushed Away")

Mr. JACKMAN: (As Roddy) (Singing) I offered her a jewel, but she left me stuck, stranded on a duck. What a shoddy thing to do to Roddy. Me. That's Roddy St. James of Kensington.

SLUGS: (Singing) Poor, poor, Roddy. Flushed down his own potty. Rita, can't you find it in your heart?

MONDELLO: How could you not be flushed with joy? I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of "Flushed Away") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.